Origins of Vanilla
Vanilla is a tropical climbing orchid and the consumer-ready dark brown vanilla as we know it comes from the dried and cured fruits (pods) of the orchid Vanilla Planifolia.
There are 3 main types of orchids that produce vanilla:
- Vanilla planifolia (also called Vanilla fragrans)
- Vanilla tahitensis
- Vanilla pompona
Vanilla planifolia is the original vanilla plant from Mexico but today it is cultivated in Uganda, Madagascar, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
Vanilla planifolia (also referred to as Bourbon vanilla) is the most common type of vanilla produced in the world, first used by Aztec people in Mexico to flavor cocoa and it has over 200 compounds, packed with amazing flavor and aroma complexity, and is considered a delicacy among chefs, bakers, and cosmetics manufacturers.
Uganda, “the Pearl of Africa”
Uganda is nicknamed the pearl of Africa, and with good reason, the loamy soil and warm tropical climate make for unique and perfect circumstances to grow the most flavorsome vanilla.
Surrounded by Lake Victoria, the Rwenzori Mountains and the Virunga Volcanoes, there is no place more beautiful or better equipped to grow vanilla.
In Uganda vanilla is grown mainly by matooke-banana farmers who plant additional trees like Jatropha curcas as the climbing tree for the vanilla vines.Vanilla grows best under good shade and the matooke banana plantations offer the perfect soil and growing conditions
Biodiversity & Nature-positive Farming
As originally found in forests wrapped around trees, vanilla is a perennial crop that grows best in a regenerative farming system such as intercropping or agroforestry as the crop needs shade and vine support climbing on stems of different crops like bananas, cocoa, or trees.